June 6, 2014
April 18, 2013
One of the common threads among adoptees is loss. It’s something we felt long before we could understand it. And we are exquisitely sensitive to losses that occur throughout our lives. I’ve suffered my share of loss, no greater than anyone else’s, but poignant to me. I think it’s important to find within yourself the strength to deal with that loss, or turn to someone who will listen or might be able to help.
I recently communicated with a friend who I had not been in touch with for a while and found out that while I was struggling with my own problems she had turned sour on the struggle to end secrecy in adoption and she accounted to a personal loss and not her frustration with the cause. I felt somewhat guilty that I’ve been so caught up in my own problems that I had not realized she was hurting. True, she hadn’t confided in me, but if I’d been better at keeping in touch, would I not have known?
I do understand that sometimes the struggle to reverse nearly a century of adoption secrecy can become overwhelming. It’s so frustrating that you want to scream, sometimes, and the consequences of your involvement can bring about bitter disappointment. It helps me to address my frustration it by trying to do something about it, even if it’s only writing a letter to the editor. “Never, never, never give up!” (Winston Churchill).
However, we all need a break from it, just as we sometimes need a break from search. If that wasn’t the case, I would blog more often.
My friend’s search ended in a brick wall as did mine many times before I finally caught a break. However, I don’t think that’s the “loss” she referred to. I tried to draw her out by admitting how I was coping, or not coping, with the loss since my mother’s death of my two dearest childhood friends and that I knew it could be unbearable at times. I reminded her that my ear was always available. She replied that I did “not have a monopoly on loss.” The bitterness in her reply wounded.
I don’t know why, when we hurt, we seek to lash out at people who wish us well. I’ve seen it happen dozens of times. I’ve even resorted to it when I was young and callow. I’ve never known it to help the situation. I rarely solicit sympathy and understanding, however, I don’t think I’ve ever pushed away someone who offered it. If I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t advertise my pain.
This led me to wonder if that has something to do with our inability to bring about sweeping reforms with regard to adoption. Most of us are embarrassed, or otherwise reluctant, to advertise our pain. I think we should look at our successes and failures. Have we made more headway when our wounds showed? Have we been more successful when we maintained a stoic façade and used reasoned discourse?
What do you think?
I had to post something today. It is my “other” birthday. April 18 is the day that I joined the family that reared me. My late mother and I always marked the day somehow but there’s been no one to remember to do that since she died. Funny how I have been known to forget it was my birthday but I always take note of this day.
November 15, 2011
It happens all the time. Someone who has donated time and heart’s blood to the cause suffers from burnout. I have had periods of burnout during which I didn’t blog, didn’t strategize and didn’t actively work for adoption reform. I’ve been in a burnout mode for several months due to some personal issues. But I miss it and, God willing, I will be working effectively toward reform again soon.
That’s why I understand and appreciate these feelings in others. There are times when the effort of trying to move a mountain of legislative apathy, media misunderstanding and bureaucratic iniertia are just too much. But more often than not, it is the effort of trying to reason with adoption “deformers” who lack the ability to see the big picture or who are more intent on taking credit than achieving results. Been there and so has my friend, Triona. She recently returned to blogging about her personal struggle against adoption profiteering. And it’s inspiring!
Check out my friend’s blog about her own experience at http://www.73adoptee.com.
January 18, 2011
Some folks, once they have made up their minds would prefer not to be confused with the facts. When that is the case, even fair and balanced reporting cannot clarify all the misconceptions that surround the institution of adoption. But we rely on reporters to ferret out the facts because consumers of news cannot generalize with any degree of accuracy about a social contract of which they have limited or no experience. When they fail to do so, or misinterpret the facts about adoption, they do a disservice to their readers and to those who are affected by this institution. In a representative government, everyone has a voice. It is unfortunate that the voice of those whose live are forever altered by adoption are almost always drowned out by those who profit from it or who base their opinion on serious misconceptions.
So, in a departure from my usual commentary on adoption coverage in the news, I am laying out a few facts that, if comprehended, might help reporters to do a better job of presenting factual interpretations to their readers on the subject of adoption.
Fact: Birth records and adoption records are not synonymous. One records a birth and issued by Vital Records based on the hospital’s report. The other is a legal contract finalized by the court. The latter does not change the former. But in some states, it causes the true affidavit of an individual’s birth to be “sealed.”
Fact: Women who surrendered children to adoption had no legally binding agreement regarding anonymity. Prior to the 1940s birth records were not sealed except in one state that sealed birth records in 1935. Birth records were never sealed in two states. Sealing birth records did not confer any special right of anonymity retroactively or prospectively since other repositories of information about the parties to the adoption existed. In many instances, that same information was disclosed routimely to adult adoptees by the agency involved. Sealing or closing adoption records had the effect of closing court records to those whose existence was permanently changed by an act of the court, something that strikes most Americans as a serious violation of human rights.
Fact: Court records of adoption were not kept under lock and key in many jurisdictions until the 1980s.
Fact: Even in states with sealed records, original birth records are not sealed when a child is surrendered to adoption. They are sealed when an adoption is finalized and a new birth certificate is issued. Birth certificates belong to the persons named in them and cannot be access by anyone else once they become adults. Those original birth certificates are often passed to foster or adoptive parents by agency officials or attorneys.
Fact: State-sponsored secrecy allows adoption fraud and dishonesty. It shields the perpetrators from prosecution because those harmed by their fraud cannot challenge the results of their actions.
Fact: Who we become is a combination of nature and nurture. I inherited many characteristics from my genetic ancestors and those were nurtured by my adoptive parents who were also supportive of my wish to know my origins.
Fact: Adoptees find their families of origin every day. If you don’t have that piece of paper, search is your only option. Search is far more intrusive than just being allowed to know the truth.
Fact: Adoption and abortion are not the only choices for dealing with an impending birth that was unplanned or is unwelcome. Open access does not encourage abortion. States that allow adult adoptees to access their records have lower abortion rates than surrounding states.
Fact: Women who do not wish to meet their offspring they can make their wishes known through this provision without abrogating the rights of other persons. Many reunions do not last but the often provide closure and healing for mothers as well as offspring. Some adoptees want to meet their family of origin but many fear rejection and are satisfied just to know but few want to subject themselves to an unwelcome encounter.
Fact: Many adoptees are not looking for reunion, just the facts. It causes no permanent harm to anyone for the adoptee to know the truth, particularly if they handle that news with discretion and respect for the privacy of others. Adoptee privacy is also an issue that opponents of open records traditionally overlook.
I hope this food for thought will be useful to reporters and triad members who seek to change the status quo.
July 16, 2010
I invite you to check out Jackson Adam’s piece in the Illinois Times:
I was surprised to be contacted months after the bill passed the Illinois Senate but delighted to speak with a journalist who gave every sign of not having already made up his mind. That is something that Triona Guidry, point person for Adoption Reform Illinois had to contend with from so-called professional news organizations such as AP when the bill was in the works. When I went to journalism school, I was taught that reporters were supposed to be unbiased or, failing that, fair and balanced. It was the reporter’s job to present all sides to an issue to the best of his/her ability.
Since I have been on the other side of the news desk where adoption reform is concerned, I have been appalled by some of the stories I have read and mightily disappointed that major news organizations show little or no interest in hearing about this issue from the perspective of those whose life it changed profoundly and permanently.
At one time, I might have believed that a reporter would have difficulty identifying a parent who surrendered a child, or possibly even identifying an adult adoptee to interview. I might have believed that sources available were unwilling to be quoted and/or identified. But now I know this is not true. And I’ve known that for some time.
Over the years, I have suggested to adoption reform activists that they make themselves known to their local media. One idea is to fill out a Rolodex card with your name, triad position and contact information and send it to local editors and news directors with a brief note saying that you are always happy to answer the media’s questions about adoption issues from your point of view as someone intimately involved in the process. I still think it is a good idea.
Illinois was a particularly disappointing loss for reformers who successfully defeated the forerunner to this bill two years earlier with an effective and well-targeted public information campaign. Had we been able to get our act together this time around, some think it might have worked again. But we will never know because that’s how it is with opportunities once lost.
But it does serve to remind those of us who work for adoption reform, and those of us who report it, that apathy condemns us to fail. Reporters who were happy to parrot the bill’s sponsor were described among those of us who saw through the propaganda as having “drunk the Kool-Aide” and there was plenty of it to go around.
Adoption has a warm, fuzzy image, more appropriately descriptive of pet adoption. How I wish the animal welfare folks had not hitched their wagon to that star. I have adopted, or been adopted by, many pets over the years. It’s not the same as human adoption but it is often treated about the same way by reporters.
Adopting a pet from a shelter, or taking in a stray instead of taking it to the shelter, may very well be saving that pet’s life. We have slightly better support mechanisms for human orphans. One of the biggest differences between pets and children involved in adoption is that most of the pets really are orphans. Most adopted persons were not.
Adoption of a child is both a joyous and a tragic occurrence in most instances. But unless you have been one of those children, or one of those parents who surrendered a child, you may never think about the tragic side of it at all.
May 25, 2010
I just love it when the media gets it right.
Following the story discussed in my March 27 blog, several adoption reform activists including me, contacted the reporter via email. We got no response until I posted a reader’s comment linked to the article on the SLP-D blog. To her credit, the reporter called our Illinois spokesperson and had a lengthy fact-finding discussion. We were so impressed until the next SLP-D article was written by another correspondent who parroted the propaganda the bill’s primary sponsor was using to try to slip it by anyone who was not paying attention.
Although, in fairness, I believe the inability of the forces for true adoption reform to work together, is largely responsible for Sara Feigenholz success with HB 5428, I cannot excuse the media from complicity. Most did not cover this bill at all as it slid through the legislature like a greased pig.
This despite the fact that the media were contacted over and over with adoptee objections to the bill. Those who were polite enough to reply personally got some additional information that would have required some reportorial enterprise to produce a good story. But this did not produce even balanced coverage much less the bombshell that a little digging might produce.
A conservative Internet-based publication, the Illinois Review, is the only media that presented the other side of this controversy in anything other than a letter to the editor prior to the signing of the bill into law. See: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2010/04/adoptees-say-quinn-should-veto-open-records-bill.html.
I appreciate this coverage. It’s a start. But I’m guessing that any conservative publication in Illinois has a limited readership. So certain of their continued reign, I don’t think that Democrats are listening to what conservatives have to say.
As a reporter, I do listen. As a life-long Democrat, I often do not agree, but I listen. And, if I was a political reporter, I would feel obliged to report on ALL viewpoints regarding a proposed law. There are more than two on this particular bill. And there is one heck of a back story if an enterprising reporter would connect the dots!
HB 5428 appears innocuous to people who do not appreciate the issue. But it’s dangerous because it is really nothing more than a cleverly-disguised confidential-intermediary-employment-security bill. The chief objection most adoption reform activists have to this bill is that it codifies a previously unsupported right by one party to deny another party access to his records, namely a birth parent veto. You can call it a preference, if you choose, but if it has the force of denying the rights of someone else, it’s a veto.
In the interest of full disclosure: I am adopted but I have NO connection with Illinois. I am reunited with my birth family but I cannot have my original birth certificate and that’s all I really wanted. Search was my only option with OBC access denied. If I hadn’t searched, I would not have some terrific relatives in my life, but I would also not know how crooked adoption is. My own involvement as an adult adoptee (not an “adult child” as persons of my ilk are referred to in this bill) and an adoption reform activist for 30 years makes my reporting on some aspects of adoption suspect. However, my appreciation and knowledge of both journalism and of the adoption issues qualifies me to evaluate news coverage of adoption. In the main, the media in Illinois do not get a passing grade.
I’m still willing to share what I can prove and what I suspect with an enterprising reporter in Illinois. I don’t need credit for the expose. The problem sees to be is that the corruption in Illinois adoption does not have enough zeroes after the dollar amount to make this a “viable “story.
This blog entry was drafted over a month ago. Posting was delayed by over-scheduled, non-existent free time.
March 27, 2010
The article above shows what happens when you accept a politician’s word for it. And that’s why you don’t.
As a public relations professional, I don’t mind when a newspaper prints my news release verbatim. But because I want to maintain a good relationship with reporters and editors, I never spin. Of course, I have no political clients. My clients are business and not-for-profit organizations, neither of which can afford to be caught spreading half-truths or outright untruths.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for politicians. Sadly, we expect them to lie, so we are only surprised if they tell the truth. I believe that the legislator behind this bill began with all good intentions when she was a neophyte legislator. But she quickly found that she was up against an industry that has considerable financial muscle and who has successfully resisted regulation for a long time. The adoption industry operates in the shadows and aims to keep it that way. I believe she found how much easier it would be to let them dictate what reforms were acceptable. Knowing that most voters know squat about what goes on in the state legislature, she has danced to their tune ever since.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…” you’ve heard that old saw. Where the adoption reform community is concerned, they are not about to be fooled again. But the media, other politicians and quite a few triad members swallow the spin she puts on it hook, line and sinker. Only the various hangers-on to the entities involved in adoption profiteering seem to know what’s in this bill.
That doesn’t let the reporter off the hook. One of the primary requirements of responsible reporting is balance! The thoughts and opinions of the bill’s sponsor are represented but the reporter failed to interview, or at least to quote, anyone whose rights will be directly affected by this bill. Why is that? I can forgive the reporter for not reading the bill but not for filing and unbalanced story.
I did what few of those affected by it, who voted for it or who have reported it have done. I read it. All 80-some pages, 21 of which were changes. Yes, there are circumstances under which an adult adoptee can get a copy of his or her original birth certificate. But it fails to acknowledge adoptee rights. Instead, it mandates search and an exchange of medical records.
Part of the reason the media gets it wrong when it comes to reporting adoption is that they approach adoption as a human interest topic. Adoption reform activists consider it to be a civil rights issue. I cannot imagine that the media would treat a story about the civil rights of any other minority with such a soft touch or fail to include the opposing view.
Adoption Reform Illinois, a coalition of adoption reform groups and individuals who hope to create a greater understanding of the issues at stake, has prepared a detailed analysis of the bill outlining what they say is wrong with it. Their objections are briefly detailed below:
• Voluntary consent to the exchange of medical information does not require government participation.
• Calling an adult adoptee an “adult child” reinforces the concept of adopted individuals as perpetual children and creates a separate class of individuals whose rights are restricted based on their birth status.
• A parental veto allows a person who relinquished all rights to deny another person his rights.
• This advisory group proposed in HB5428 is stacked with entities that benefit financially from adoption.
• The bill legally mandates fraud with regard to public records.
• This statue enshrines mutual consent registries in law even though they have been shown not to work.
• This statute is about search and reunion, not adoptee rights. State-supplied search services are unnecessary when adoptee rights to original birth certificates (OBC) are restored.
• Federal privacy laws in no way impact the release of birth certificates.
• This creates a legal liability of $10,000 for triad members who pursue their own genealogy. Money collected if CIs break the rule do not go to the injured party, they go to DCFS. CIs are not removed from their position when they err.
• The bill holds the state and CIs harmless for mistakes made while messing about in an individual’s business.
• Throwing good money after bad makes no sense. Fiscally and morally, the right thing to do is to restore adoptee rights.
Adoption reform activists give the bill little chance of passing. If there has been a fiscal note issues, it has not been made public. But in a time when the state’s revenues fall far short of the government’s expenses, this bill will be viewed as frivolous by fiscal conservatives. It does seek to raise revenue but no where near what it will cost to create and maintain the files it proposes to keep on every adoptee who seeks basic information about his or her own identity.
I know that newspaper revenues are shrinking and that reporters are overworked but adoption stories are as perennial as the grass. Make some contacts with adoption reform groups. They exist in every state. Reporters, please, put the name and number of an adoptee who is up to speed on the issue in your Rolodex, and use it. If you have trouble, feel free to contact me; I will find a triad member in your state who is in the know and willing to go on the record.
September 10, 2009
Disclaimer: Although I try to keep myself out of my blogs about media coverage of adoption, my interest is rooted in extensive knowledge of the social phenomenon so it is hard to withhold examples from my experience. I find that this is one of those occasions when I cannot take the reporter out of the story.
Those of us who have lamented inadequate, even misleading, coverage of adoption by the nation’s news media are beside ourselves with joy at the rash of recently published insightful articles.
We are no longer prophets wailing in the wilderness.
John Rosemond, a psychologist, and McClatchy columnist exposes “attachment” disorders for what they are – a malady designed to tap the bank accounts of well-heeled adoptive parents rather than an attempt to actually do something to benefit adopted children. In fact, there are some who have sought to extend this kind of “help” to adopted adults as well.
Read his column here: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/lifestyles/family/s_641589.html
The science is sloppy but effectively preys on people who are already insecure and unprepared for reality. Whenever I read about some of the bizarre therapies that are employed to help adoptees bond with their adoptive families – including a birthing simulation that has resulted in at least one child dying from the procedure – I am appalled not only by the ignorance of some parents but also what might be termed criminal exploitation of these folks by so-called professionals. And I fail to understand how any state board could license someone to practice this kind of voodoo!
Rosemond calls a spade a spade and he acknowledges that health care, including mental health care is an entrepreneurial exercise in which members of the “helping” professions can exploit the reverence we assign to anyone in health care by leading us down a primrose path under the guise of helping us.
Kudos to Rosemond for speaking out. There will be no shortage of practitioners who will vilify him for this. And Kudos to McClatchy for publishing his viewpoint. There are triad members who could benefit from counseling to resolve anger issues and to put the experience in perspective. Regardless of how an adoption situation came about, at some point, those injured by it need to pick themselves up and move on. The kind of psuedo-scientific approach that Rosemond decries is not a positive contribution to the situation.
This kind of professional malpractice occurs because those party to adoption are particularly vulnerable. Whether you are (1) a mother who was shamed, coerced or tricked into surrendering a child to adoption, or who truly made a decision in what seemed to be the child’s best interests, or (2) an adoptive parent frustrated by an inability to reproduce the old-fashioned way or (3) an adoptee with perfectly logical but unanswered questions about your origins – you represent a gold mine to an unscrupulous practitioner.
Decades after surrendering a child to adoption, most women deal daily with regret, shame, and deep sadness. They grieve the loss of their child. Regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us to think about it, a family cannot be created through adoption until another family is destroyed by it. Sometimes, that may be in the best interests of the child. But, in most instances, the child can never know with any certainty that this is the case because the facts of their adoption are hidden.
Couples who have love to give and want a child truly suffer from infertility. For anyone who longs to hold their own child in their harms and provide love and care and watch that child grow into an independent person, not being able to conceive is a terrible disappointment. The overwhelming majority of these couples, understandably, come to adoption as a last resort. A fact that is not lost on a reasonably intelligent adoptee, even when they know that their adoptive parents love them. Adult adoptees can deal with this reality. Teen adoptees may anguish over it.
It is also true that adolescence is fraught with angst. I doubt that even one percent of American children passes through adolescence without conflict with their custodial parents regardless of their biological connection. It is a right of passage in a society that keeps us children long after our bodies have reached adulthood, wracked by the attendant hormonal changes. Regardless of what Dr. Phil says about our brains not reaching maturity until after age 21, you could make a case that young adults are deprived of life experiences that bring wisdom, that consequential experience is what helps them to mature. Mistakes always provide us with more experience that wise choices. As much as we wish to protect the ones we love from the consequences of their own actions, to do so does not necessarily benefit the people we love.
In the case of adoptees, the law views them as perpetual children without the requisite skills to manage their own affairs. Even after they become adults, sealed records means they are denied the opportunity to examine or question decisions made on their behalf when they were infants in most states.
Because society repeatedly inflicts sadness, disappointment and shame on members of the triad over the course of years, it’s probable that this group, as a whole, has a slightly higher percentage of fragile or troubled individuals. But quackery is not going to cure their ills. So I question the contention that wrapping a tween so tightly in a blanket that she chokes to death on her own vomit is going to produce a healthy parent-child relationship.
Many psychological disorders grow out of fear. Children fear not being loved and being different from their peers. Discovering they were adopted when they are old enough to understand what it is gives rise to those fears. Children who always know they were adopted, even before they know what that means, are far less likely to suddenly wonder if they are loved or why the were rejected by their family or origin.
Let’s take the case of a Korean-born adoptee, call her Mae*, who endured the taunts of schoolyard bullies because she looked different from her siblings and everyone else at the small elementary school had reason to feel she was not accepted. Unfortunately, this was reinforced at home where the decision to adopt her was not supported by both parents. Kids are not stupid! They read body language and make comparisons and they know the score. Mae grew up angry and looked for love in all the wrong places. She was not psychotic! But being deprived of love turned her into an even more rebellious teen than she might have been otherwise.
Anger is an issue that frequently comes to the fore in triad members. If you are a triad member, how many women do you know who 30 or 40 years afterward are still angry with themselves, if no one else, that they were talked into signing away their parental rights. While I know a good many women who are happily reunited with their offspring, a number of women of my acquaintance who found the child they surrendered are worse off because of what they found.
Adoptees who were the victims of bad placements – we only know about the ones who speak out – often harbor misplaced anger. My friend, Lee*, was date raped and persuaded that she should surrender the child to adoption in a state several hundred miles from her home to avoid any further connection with the troubled young man who raped her. It was certainly the best course of action for her and her family. She grieved the loss of her daughter and longed to find her. She had no way of knowing that her child had been placed with a couple whose marriage was falling apart because of the wife’s alcoholism. After she finally drove her husband away, the adoptive mother tried to keep the adoptee from going away to college. The adoptee found her natural mother by the most bizarre coincidence when she was 18. Probably because there was no counseling offered to either of them, the adoptee went from joy at finding acceptance with her natural mother to complete estrangement resulting from her anger at being “given away.” She is now pursuing her masters in social work (and that’s a whole other blog).
How about men who never knew they had fathered a child until it was too late? Some of them have fought successfully to reclaim their biological offspring and, in the process everyone touched by the situation has been wounded. Was it love that kept the adoptive parents from giving the child back to his /her parents? And what was it that tempted the adoption agency and the court to make this life-changing decision for the adoptee without dotting all the “eyes” and crossing all the tees?” When this writer was placed for adoption in 1952 no one even bothered to notify the putative father. He was a possible complication that could be avoided. Anyone even marginally affected by adoption sees the folly of that approach.
The parties to adoption need to be protected from profiteers both before and after adoption takes place. Attachment disorder therapists are just one more group that stands in line to profit from human frailties exaggerated by adoption.
* Names changed to protect my friends and colleagues.
Recently several eye-opening articles have breathed fresh air in media coverage of adoption among them is an article in The Nation entitled “Shotgun Adoption” by Kathryn Joyce, which appeared on September 14.
Articles like this one mark a distinct departure from the typical coverage of adoption and they do not appear with any frequency. According to the magazine “Research support was provided by the Puffin Foundation Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.” Those who have long lamented the media’s superficial coverage of adoption issues were gratified by the coverage but the question remains, why should a private charity be needed to underwrite journalistic enterprise.
Read the story at: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090914/joyce.
The typical media treatment of adoption is more likely to be a saccharine story of an adult adoptee locating his/her family of origin. Not that these stories are not touching; and they do serve to make a case for adoption reformers’ contention that women who surrender a child to adoption were never promised confidentiality and most did not want it. A typical story of this ilk can be found at http://www.northlandpress.com/CLreunited9109.html full of reportorial errors and lacking balance because a general assignment reporter does not do his homework.
Writing in The Nation, Joyce masterfully employs narrative as she describes a 32-year-old pharmacy technician, pregnant and unmarried who sought support from Bethany Christian Services, a faith-based organization that has found adoption to be such a profitable undertaking that it is the nation’s largest adoption agency. Masquerading as concerned Christians seeking to support young women who must make difficult decisions, Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) prey on women at a desperate time coercing them into choosing adoption.
CPCs offer of free housing and medical care is, to pregnant women willing to sign away their children. Bethany christian Services is not the only CPC to emply techniques akin to those of abusive spouses, namely to isolate the pregnant woman from friends and family. Bethany placed this young woman in the home of a “shepherding family” whose job it is to reinforce her decision to place the child for adoption, a decision that allows Bethany to profit.
CPCs that have sprung up around the country in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade are, today, funded largely by $60 million in federal abstinence and marriage-promotion funds, a legacy of the Bush administration’s payback to right-wing Christian groups who supported his election. Despite the fact that a number states have rejected this funding because of the strings that come with it and despite campaign promises to stop federal efforts to impose a religious agenda on Americans financed by their own tax dollars, the trend continues.
Joyce writes: “The National Abortion Federation estimates that as many as 4,000 CPCs operate in the United States, often using deceptive tactics like posing as abortion providers and showing women graphic antiabortion films. While there is growing awareness of how CPCs hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less well known: they seek not only to induce women to “choose life” but to choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves, as in Bethany’s case, or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies. Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their children.”
Bethany promised this young women that her medical bills would be paid but never mentioned that they were not planning on shelling out the money. They helped her to apply for Medicaid to make those payments. Guess what? She could have applied to Medicare without the agency’s assistance and without surrendering her child.
A child that is still an abstract concept is very different than one that is a reality. This mother’s maternal instincts kicked in after she gave birth. She had second thoughts, intensified no doubt by the fact that South Carolina is not one of the 17 states that recognize open adoption in its statutes. When she wavered Bethany swept in to the recovery room coerce her into going through with the adoption. And they rushed her through signing relinquishment papers, scooped up the child and took the mother out of the hospital before she was even discharged.
Once Bethany had the child, the mother was discarded. Joyce recounts that after weeks of trying to reach a Bethany post-adoption counselor she finally reached the woman who had “shepherded” her into surrendering her child only to be brusquely dismissed.
Lest the reader think this is an isolated case, Bethany is ranked poorly by birth mothers on a website that rates agencies: http://www.adoptionagencyratings.com. Since the article appeared in The Nation, the website has gone offline but the information can still be found cashed. Not only did mothers who surrendered a child give it a thumbs down but several adoptive parent observed that these (birth) mothers were subjected to coercion.
This is not a new phenomenon. Anyone who has been paying attention can tell you that instances of coercion in adoption stretch back to approximately the same time period that records were sealed in many states – the late 1930s and early 1940s. Adoption historians refer to the period from the end of World War II to the early 1970s as the “baby scoop” era. For more information about this period of adoption practice in the USA, see Ann Fessler’s, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade.
“… Single motherhood was so stigmatized that at least 1.5 million unwed American mothers relinquished children for adoption, often after finishing pregnancies secretly in maternity homes. The coercion was frequently brutal, entailing severe isolation, shaming, withholding information about labor, disallowing mothers to see their babies and coercing relinquishment signatures while women were drugged or misled about their rights. Often, women’s names were changed or abbreviated, to bolster a sense that ‘the person who went away to deliver the baby was someone else’ and that mothers would later forget about the babies they had given up. In taking oral histories from more than a hundred Baby Scoop Era mothers, Fessler found that not only was that untrue but most mothers suffered lifelong guilt and depression.” [Quoting from Joyce’s article]
When Maryland reform activists first began to lobby the state legislature for adult adoptee access to their own records (a matter of course before January 1947 when records were retroactively sealed) an experienced social worker testifying before the judiciary committee reminded the legislators that adoption was about “finding a home for a child who needs one, not about finding a child for a couple who wants one.”
In reality, adoption has not been practiced according to that standard in the USA since the late 1930s. Roe v. Wade might have signaled a kinder, gentler industry since unmarried pregnant women might have gained more power in the process except that, at about the same time, birth control became widely available and single motherhood gained social acceptance. The result was a shortage of healthy white babies available for adoption, the commodity that fueled a profitable and largely unregulated industry.
Why is it then that it has taken 30 years for the mainstream media to recognize that there is a story here? Or that it is potentially as big a story as Enron, Blackwater or the Downing Street memo? Child trafficking is, after all, a momentous social issue. Why is it that adoption is distorted by being used to describe the purchase of a Cabbage Patch doll or euated with rescuing a pet from the animal shelter? The issue is far more complex and the media has done a substandard job, in the main, of covering this aspect of life in America.
The Nation, the Puffin Foundation and Kathryn Joyce have done a stellar job of putting adoption in perspective.
August 31, 2009
Go to Change.org and show your support for adult adoptees who want access to their own identity by singing this petition.